Culture | Discuss Japan-Japan Foreign Policy Forum - Part 2

Archives : Culture

No.36, Culture  Feb. 22, 2017

Interview with Architect Ito Toyo: Architecture for the Future

Interview with the Architect Ito Toyo by Moronaga Yuji, Editorial Department of Asahi Shimbun Digital We must turn away from modern thinking that separates human beings and nature. So says world-renowned architect, Ito Toyo. Ito was involved in reconstruction following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, but he lost the competition to design the new National Olympic Stadium. Today, he is working on wooden temporary housing in Kumamoto. From someone who builds, he has become someone who connects. We asked Ito about the image of the architect in an age of shrinking population and few expectations for economic growth. Moronaga Yuji: What sort of temporary housing are you creating in areas hit by the Kumamoto earthquake? Ito Toyo: I want to provide temporary housing that is warm, not dreary and dull prefabs. The governor of Kumamoto, Kabashima Ikuo, feels the same way; of around ... ... [Read more]

No.35, Culture  Nov. 7, 2016

Q&A The Origins of Shinto Shrines

Geijutsu Shincho: How and when did the history of Shinto shrines begin? Okada Shoji: Apart from the clay figures used during rituals in the Jomon period and the bronze bells used in rituals during the Yayoi period, the first definite evidence we have for rituals (kami worship) linked to present day Shrine Shinto is from the latter half of the fourth century, i.e. from the mid Kofun period on. Although we have found various traces of rituals, essentially there is nothing like a sacred building (shrine building). It is thought that there was a long period during which the kami were worshipped at iwakura (sacred rocks) and himorogi (branches set up temporarily to receive the kami). The location for these rituals was the boundary between mountain and village, which was also the boundary between the world of kami and the world of men. People ... ... [Read more]

No.35, Culture  Nov. 1, 2016

The Chief Priest of Ise Jingu talks at length about subjects such as the Shikinen Sengu, the Summit, and the succession of the legacies

Why do Japanese people visit Ise? Knowledge created as a result of the Sengu that has been carried out for 1,300 years. We at Ise Jingu recently had the honor of welcoming the leaders of the G7 countries who visited Japan to attend the Ise-Shima Summit. Standing with Prime Minister Abe at the foot of the Ujibashi Bridge at the entrance of Naiku (main sanctuary), I shook hands with each of the leaders and delivered a short speech in English to welcome them. Predictably, when it comes to heads of state, they understand the advantages of showing courtesy based on the concept of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In the main sacred place, the guests proceeded to the Mikakiuchi zone, the inside of the outer Tonotamagaki fence, and paid their respects according to Japanese custom. Prime Minister Abe led the leaders ... ... [Read more]

No.36, Culture  Oct. 31, 2016

How the Thousand-Year Capital Created Genius Painter  Ito Jakuchu and the City of Kyoto*

The remarkable painter Ito Jakuchu was born during the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Shotoku (1716), and was the eldest son of a Kyoto greengrocery wholesale store. The house in which he was born was located in the present-day Nishiki food market, where a line of shops now runs along the main street. “When we consider Jakuchu’s work as a painter, the fact that he was born in eighteenth-century Kyoto has a special significance,” says art historian Kano Hiroyuki, the leading expert on Ito Jakuchu. When Jakuchu lived, over 100 years had passed since Tokugawa set up his shogunate in Edo [former name for Tokyo]. The Emperor still had his palace in Kyoto but the city was no longer the center of political power. The people of Kyoto had an important issue to consider: what kind of city to build for the future.... [Read more]

No.34, Culture  Oct. 17, 2016

The Master of Special Effects – The Legacy of Tsuburaya Eiji ― In conversation with Ooka Shinichi, President of Tsuburaya Productions

Explosions crash and bang as Godzilla or another monster destroys the city… Ultraman shoots Spacium Rays to take down another monster… The best thing about watching special effects movies is that they always shock and surprise you. Tsuburaya Eiji was known as the master of special effects, but in what ways is his DNA being kept alive today? We take a look back and share in the recollections of Ooka Shinichi, former cameraman and current President of Tsuburaya Productions.... [Read more]

No.34, Culture, Discussions  Sept. 30, 2016

No future for places that fail to attract talent

Cutting a Topknot That Had Been Tied for Twenty-four Years. Meij: You have just had your retirement ceremony and had your topknot cut. Have you gotten used to your new hair style? Nishiiwa: Not yet, because I had a topknot for twenty-four years (laughs). Meij: I’ve read your autobiography (Tatakiage). True to the title, you really are a self-made man. What surprised me most is that you had surgery an astonishing nine times. I don’t know anyone else who’s had so many operations. Nishiiwa: Me neither, other than me. Meij: You won nineteen consecutive tournaments at the three highest ranks below yokozuna. That is amazing. Unlike ozeki, there is no kadoban for these three ranks. So, you will be demoted if you lose many more than you win, or even stay away from the ring for a tournament.... [Read more]

No.34, Culture  Sept. 26, 2016

Inhabitants of Darkness, Born Out of Human Anxiety From Edo-Tokyo Museum’s Grand Yōkai Exhibition “From Eery to Endearing: Yōkai in the Arts of Japan”

In Japanese folklore, yokai are specters, ghosts, monsters or apparitions that take on bizarre forms and startle people in their daily lives. The number of pictures and paintings depicting those forms increased dramatically during the Edo period (1603–1867), and yokai became a familiar theme. But paintings depicting the monsters that inhabit the spirit world have been produced since ancient times, and have continued to stimulate people’s imaginations for centuries.   “The Ruined Palace at Sōma,” oban nishiki-e sanmai tsuzuki (large-size multi-colored woodblock print, three prints forming a single composition), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1844–48), now in a private collection. Exhibition period: 5 July – 28 August 2016 at the Edo-Tokyo Museum (Tokyo) and 10 September – 6 November 2016 at Abeno Harukas Art Museum (Osaka) Yokai can be regarded as manifestations of human fear and anxiety in day-to-day life. Their depictions in Japanese painting began to ... ... [Read more]

No.34, Culture  Sept. 25, 2016

Today’s Sumo Wrestlers Lack Spirit — Possibility of the advent of Japanese yokozuna

Hakkaku Nobuyoshi: I have settled into the position. The outside directors helped me a lot, and I have undertaken my job by trial and error. As a result, I’m gradually becoming more confident. I have had a hectic time since Kitanoumi, the previous chairman, passed away. I have refrained from drinking for a year. Very recently, I have played the occasional round of golf. The Grand Sumo Tournament is very popular, with every date fully booked. Sumo fans still want a Japanese yokozuna. Personally, I believe that someone is a sumo wrestler as soon as he starts his career, whether he is Japanese or Mongolian. In reality, many sumo fans often tell me that they want a Japanese yokozuna. What do you want young Japanese sumo wrestlers to do to become a yokozuma? I think that many of them have already given up any hope of beating Hakuho or being as strong as him. In a way, they don’t even have a dream. Even if you are not strong enough... [Read more]

No.33, Culture  Jun. 5, 2016

A Sardine-Shaped Cloud

Haiku International Association President Arima Akito delivers his welcome address.

The prize-giving ceremony for the 17th Haiku International Association Haiku Contest was held at the Arcadia Ichigaya Hotel in Tokyo on 5 December 2015. The prizewinning works and judges’ summations here follow, along with an extract of the speech given at the ceremony by the haiku enthusiast Radu Şerban, Ambassador of Romania to Japan. ... [Read more]

No.33, Culture  Jun. 3, 2016

The Origins of Japanese Culture Uncovered Using DNA ―What happens when we cut into the world of the Kojiki myths using the latest science

MIURA Sukeyuki: The Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) has one distinguishing feature in the fact it includes a mixture of both Southern and Northern style myths. This is proof that Japanese culture was originally not only one culture, but rather came into existence while being influenced by its various surroundings; but when it comes to trying to seek out the origins of that culture, as we would expect, there are limits to how far we can get using only an arts and humanities-based approach. That’s where your (Professor Shinoda’s) area of expertise—molecular anthropology—comes in and corroborates things scientifically for us. By analyzing the DNA remaining in ancient human skeletal remains, your research closing in on the origins of the Japanese people is beginning to unravel when the Jomon and Yayoi peoples and so on came to the Japanese archipelago, where they came from, and the course of their movements, isn’t it? In recent times we’ve come to look forward to the possibility that, by watching the latest developments in scientific research, we may be able to newly uncover the origins of Japanese culture.... [Read more]